The entrepreneurial science writer
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The entrepreneurial science writer The entrepreneurial science writer Presentation Transcript

  • UCSC science writing program
    May 10, 2011
    David harris
    The entrepreneurial science writer
  • The entrepreneurial science writer
    The old business models of journalism are in trouble
    This is an opportunity
    To take advantage of an opportunity like this, you need to be an entrepreneur
    Your business is you and your skills
  • Strategies
    Build and know your skills
    Know the market
    Market yourself
    Work with people who excite you
  • Tactics for marketing yourself
    Build a personal brand
    A personal brand is how others feel about you in their gut and heart
    Know everybody
    Do favors (but still get paid)
    Add value to others’ lives
    Be active in the science writing community
    Be active in other communities
  • Tools for marketing yourself
    Meetings and conferences
    Go to them
    Use them for the networks as much as the content
    Activities outside science writing
    Participate for the networking
    Participate to broaden your interests
    Social media
    Learn how it truly works
    Use it effectively
  • Your social media use
    Who in this room does each of these?
    uses facebook
    uses twitter
    uses LinkedIn
    has a blog/tumblr/posterous
    is in some specialist social network
    uses social bookmarking
    regularly posts video/audio?
  • What is social media?
    “Social media involves a natural, genuine conversation between people about something of mutual interest, a conversation built on the thoughts and experiences of those participants. It is about sharing and arriving at a collective point, often for the purpose of making a better or more-informed choice.”
    – Dave Evans
  • What is social media?
    “Social media is the media we use to be social.”
    – Lon Safko
  • Why care about social media?
    Our trade is information
    Information is flowing in new ways due to social media
    We need to understand those ways to take advantage of them
    It gives us new ways to think about what we do
    Social media is a disruptive force on traditional media
  • 10 uses of social media for science writers
    Finding/tracking breaking events
    Reporting on events as rapidly as possible
    Observing remote events/conferences
    Participating in remote events/conferences
    Finding ideas and commissioning stories
    Finding sources
    Building community (among peers & readers)
    “Meeting” new people -> meeting new people
    Hearing about useful events
    Spreading ideas, generating secondary pickup/stories
  • Evolution of Information Ecosystems
    Authority relationships
    Trust relationships
    Personal networks
    Trusted authorities
  • The secret life of social media
    Key points:
    It often doesn’t work the way you imagine or the way it claims to
    It can be quite complicated and you really need to understand it to take advantage of it
    Social bookmarking as a case study
    See a full presentation on this from NASW 2009 at:
  • Fundamental rule of social media
    It’s just a tool
    It’s a tactic not a strategy
    The technology is not the sociology
  • Corollaries of the fundamental rule
    Social media is often not about the content itself: It is often the meta-content or the distribution
    Social media offers a chance for you to be entrepreneurial in reaching new audiences (case study: book publicity)
    You’ve written the story, now get it to the people
    Social media can be particularly useful to science writers as science interest is a non-geographically-specified niche.
  • Use the right tool for the right purpose
    Q: When would you use a facebook status update vs twitter update?
    Q: What’s the main difference between facebook and MySpace?
    Q: Why would you blog with LiveJournalvs Blogger vsWordPressvsTumblrvs … ?
    Q: What’s the difference between email and a twitter stream?
    Q: How do individuals matter in social media?
  • It’s the community, stupid
    The use of social media tools is inextricably linked with the kinds of communities you wish to include, create, connect with, or be part of.
    The sociology is not really new in most cases. However, the power of the tools is much greater.
    There is a loose community of science fans who previously could only coalesce around popular science magazines. Q: What does social media offer?
  • Journalists’ concerns
    How does a journalist navigate the private-public spectrum that replaces the old private/public separation? (Risks and opportunities.)
    What is happening to the gatekeeper role of journalism? (Middleman problem. The importance of filters.)
    Can journalists beat the sources to breaking news any more? (The role of scoops. Scientists who blog.)
    What value does a journalist add? (Will “just the facts” cut it? Content vs. context vs. analysis)
  • Adoption of social media by science writers
    Where are the science writers’ social networks? Are you part of them?
    Why are science writers so slow to adopt social media and so resistant to it?
    How will you cope with being seen as the expert on social media in your next job, just because you are young?
  • Planning social media strategies
    Remember the fundamental rule: it’s a tactic not a strategy
    As a tactic, you should experiment to see what works. If it works, keep it up (at least until something changes). If not, abandon it (at least until something changes).
    Cost of failure is low if you haven’t invested lots of time. The tech makes it easy to do without large time investments.
    A social media plan should naturally derive from a communications plan. It shouldn’t take long to plan.
  • Collaboration
    An insufficiently answered question: How can science journalists use social media for collaboration?
    Tools of social media allow for easier blending of different media types
    Collaborative workspaces share many features of social networks
    Tools for other social media can be put to collaborative use in science writing.
    Given the technical nature of much science writing, many questions arise for readers. How can social media help with this?
  • Business models
    Like old media, still predominantly ad-based
    This means it’s all about eyeballs on ads and therefore about boosting traffic
    Increased traffic is used as a proxy for just about everything else, but how valid is that? Does it matter if it’s valid?
    Some new models appearing
    Content is a loss leader in the form of community building. Monetized through other options, such as events. Example:
    Relying on sources for content such as Journalism/PIO partnerships. Example: US News & World Report/NSF
    Paywall experiments are still too young to evaluate.
  • Tips for entrepreneurs
    Know what you do well, what value-adding you can bring, what your individuating skills are
    Don’t expect opportunities to be given: you must take them
    Experiment with low-investment tools
    Ally yourself with disparate groups and people
    Define a web presence
    Act with integrity
    Be confident, positive and happy
    Be ambitious
    Be passionate
  • Old media recommendations
    Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008
    Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing, 2008
    Lewis Hyde, The Gift, 1979
    Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action, 1965
  • Some new media recommendations
  • Advice via twitter
    I'd suggest the first order of business is learning to write a good story. Then learn to speak a little science. @mkraptl
    My advice? Persist. @tdechant
    By far the most important thing is to understand the scientific method, which is important for understanding how science works @chronsciguy
    New writers should learn how science operates in theory and practice. It'll help you spot things that seem fishy. @j_timmer
    Understand and follow "old media" as well as new ones--we still have so much to learn from them. @dcastelvecchi
  • Other stuff
    Some stuff from me:
    Secret life of social media (slides+audio):
    What does twitter mean for breaking news stories? The ISS near-collision case study:
    Some articles:
    How Freelancers are Using Social Media for Real Results
    Why Social Media Reinvigorates the Market for Quality Journalism
    The Future of Social Media in Journalism
  • During this class
    Who has read some form of social media in this class?
    Who has updated some form of social media in this class?
    Who had the urge to either read or post during the class?